7 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 10 - July/August 2005

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jAzz Notes The Music

jAzz Notes The Music Lives On by Jim Galloway The past month was one of some sadness and of happy memories. !lost one good friend and celebrated the life of another. First the celebration. Adolphus Anthony "Doc" Cheatham was born in Nashville, Tennessee on the 13th of June, 1905 , and the story of his life in music is absolutely fascinating. His career of more than 70 years was one of the most distinguished in the story of this music. He started as a drummer but, like some other well-known musicians, Lester Young for one, decided that he would rather play a hom and switched to saxophone and cornet. His father was a businessman, his mother was a school teacher, and he had an elder brother who became a dentist. His parents had hopes that Adolphus might also choose a medical profession, but Doc had other ideas and while still a teenager was already playing in theatre pit bands. This was the age of vaudeville and the young aspiring Cheatham gained a great deal of valuable experience accompanying such singers as Bessie Smith and Clara Smith as well as Ethel Waters. He was now set on a career in music and moved to Chicago in the mid-20s . There was a waiting period before he could join the A F of M local, so he washed dishes at a Loop restaurant before starting his tirst gig at Dreamland, AI Capone's club 9n State Street. He was still dabbling in saxophone and in fact during this period, recorded with blues singer Ma Rainey playing soprano saxophone! But the influence of Louis Armstrong and Freddie Keppard took over soon after and Doc honed in on the trumpet, developing over the next decade into one of the best lead trumpeters in the business. As such he was in great demand throughout the 1930s. In those formative years he played with Albert Wynn's band and led his own group, but the most important development was in meeting and sometimes standing in for Louis Armstrong. In 1927, Doc headed for New York where he worked with Wilbur De Paris and Chick Webb; he toured Europe with the Sam Wooding Orchestra and I remember Doc telling me about the season the band spent in Nice and how elegant they all looked in their tuxedos. In an interview late in his career he recalled, "While we were over there we recorded ' Downcast Blues,' which is . one I really enjoyed. That's about the time I decided I was going to keep playing until someone told me to stop. No one ever did! " Back in New York, he joined McKinney's Cotton Pickers on lead trumpet (no solos), and in 1931 began an eight-year stint with Cab Calloway. He played lead trumpet in bands led by Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter and Eddie Heywood. By 1945, having little affinity for Bebop, Doc took a job with the Post Office, took care of some dental problems and opened a New York teaching studio. But he was soon back and by the 1950s he was working with Wilber De Paris, Sammy Price and Herbie Mann. He also led his own band for five years at Broadway's International Hotel. Showing his amazing versatility and ability to change with the times he also began playing with Latin bands including Perez Prado and Machito! He was with Benny Goodman during 1966-1967 . At that time, Goodman hacf a quintet rather than a big band, and Doc, after so many years as a lead player, faced yet another new e;hallenge as a soloist alongside Goodman's clarinet; but he quickly adapted to , and enjoyed, this new role. So began, in his sixties, a brand new career as a gifted solo artist and entertainer. In 1980, he began playing Sunday 'brunch' sessions at Sweet Basil , a club in the Village, singing his very personal half-spoken, half-sung vocals and telling anecdotes as well as playing with power and creativity. It became one of the longest running gigs in New York and Doc continued touring, playing clubs, concerts and festivals all over the world right up to his death on June 2, 1997, in Washington, D.C., after an engagement at Blues Alley. Doc was a very melodic player and in explaining his approach to improvisation once said, "You have to photograph the melody in your mind. The chords come automatically because you have a base there in the melody that is the foundation of every chord." In his 90th year Doc said in an interview, "People keep trying to find my place in history. I say, if you close your eyes and enjoy what you hear, then that is all the history I need to be a part of." On June 13th of this year, Doc would have been 100 years old. On the 14th, as the opening concert of the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, there was an evening celebrating his life, at The Rose Theatre in the Lincoln Centre For Jazz. I was privileged to be invited to take part in the event which was headlined by four of the most lyrical trumpet players in the business - Clark Terry, Warren Vache, Jimmy Owens and Randy Sandke. But there was a fifth hom player on the bill- Doc Cheatham's 19-year-old grandson Theodore Croker, who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to his grandfather, and at times, even in his playing of certain notes, would bring to mind Doc's approach. It was an evening of happy memories. Celebration over. Two days after New York, I attended the funeral of another friend who also had a rich life in music. Hartland Wheeler did not have the same world-wide fame that Doc Cheatham achieved, but did have the same love and dedication and, like Doc, brought pleasure to a host of people. Born on December 22, 1921 , Hart's career flourished mainly in the Toronto area, playing in a number of the best-known big bands over the years including Ellis McLintock, Mart and Art Hallman as ABOVE: Doc Cheatham (Jim Galloway in the background); BELOw: Hartland (Hart) Wheeler well as leading hi s own show groups, playing tenor and clarinet and singing. One of the highlights of his long career was the now legendary night on May 15th, 1953 at Massey Hall when Hart played in the big band that opened for the quintet featuring five giants of jazz, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell , Max Roach and Charles Mingus. "In more recent years Hart played in two other well-known known Canadian big bands, the Canadian Tribute To Glenn Miller, in which he not only played but coached and sang in the vocal quartet, the Fabulous Moonbeams and my own Wee Big Band where he had a pretty free rein to let off steam on his solos. He was a one-off; there will not be another quite like him . In private a little bit shy, but in public his emotions were rarely tucked away and he loved to be the centre of attraction, shouting "Yeah! " at the end of a solo, throwing his arms in the air and encouraging the crowd to give him the applause he deserved! His passing on June lOth is a bit too close not to feel some sadness, but I know that with time, I'll be able to remember him in the same way that I enjoy the recollections of Doc Cheatham and because of the proximity of the two events this month, it will be difficult for me to think of one without remembering the other. And, of course, the music lives on forever. '

BEYOND THE JAZZ LISTINGS by Sophia Perlman Ten years ago, the WholeNote magazine was born. A tiny little magazine run out of the back rooms of two houses somewhere .downtown. Now, the magazine has blossomed into something beyond anybody' s wildest dreams. This coming July In the listings: Toronto Jazz trumpeter 4th at the final Salon of our William Sperandei, part of the Quintet "Nine Mondays" series, Sper~nd~i Ensemble,_ a new group per­ WholeNote celebrates this formcng Ill three specwl shows at the end lOOth issue of the magazine. of the 2005 Toronto Down~own Jazz Fes- On that same day, 1 have a flval: July 1, Trane StudiOs, Bpm; July rather important anniversary of 2, ~he_ Arts & ~ett~rs Club, 6pm; July 6, my own: my 20th birthday _ Fatrvtew Publtc Ltbrary Theatre, 6pm. a date that I share with a very dear fellow musician, rising pianist David Atkinson , who's turning 19 (even more important in Ontari-ari-ario). So we've decided to make the July 4th Salon a celebration in style! David and I will be hosting a jam session with our friends, colleagues, some ghosts of WholeNote's past - and anyone else who wants to play! Anyone is welcome to bring an instrument and play, or just come and enjoy some great live music, some fabulous food and some wonderful company! Some of the people showing up in this issue's jazz listings bring back personal memories. It was only four years ago that I was going into my last year of high school and, at Interprovincial Music Camp, met Vancouver trombonist, pianist and composer Hugh Fraser, who wi ll be appearing with his Vancouver Ensemble For Jazz Improvisation (VEJI) at the Rex on July I st. Alongside him on IMJ faculty was Lisa Martinelli (Kincardine Summer Music Festival, Aug 1), Mike Murley (Mezzetta, Jul2), and CONTINUES ON PAGE 42 · TORONTO ISL).ND J~ZZ f£STIVAL 2005 PT.3~ 100+ ARTISTS Joey Defrancesco • Doug Riley • Artt Frank Warren Chiasson • Bernie Senensky • lorne lofsky Hilario Duron's Big Bond • Emilie Claire Barlow Nick 'Brownmon' Ali • Joymz Bee + RJO • Dione Taylor Joke Longley • Bruce Cassidy ... plus many more! Let the jazz begin I Purchase tickets online at www.TORONTOISLANDJAZZ.coM

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